How To Tackle The ACLU and Win: Is The "Intelligent Design" Program "Religion?"


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The futile, but never-ending debate over which account of human origins may or may not be taught in public schools, drones on yet again. Most American Christians continue to fight the less-than-good fight, oblivious to the fairly obvious point that the Bible commands God's people, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. " This clearly requires Christians to avoid having their children taught by pagans - meaning that God requires them to avoid sending their children to public schools. This is a sinful, but common, practice among baptized households.

So then, having said our mind on the subject, we move onto the questions of logic as they pop up in the debate. Several of the proponents of Mr. Darwin's views have recently alleged that the doctrine of intelligent design ought not be taught in public schools because it presents an inherently “religious" view. Several ways to nullify the intended effectiveness of this claim come to mind.

First, we should like to note that no consensus exists among philosophers as to how one might distinguish a religion from a philosophy. Some would accept the claim that religions come with rituals or ceremonies, while philosophies do not. But variants of ancient Orphism, Pythagoreanism and Neo-Platonism come with mystical symbols and opaque rituals - some of which symbols were taken up by later forms of Kabbala - and these ancient views are usually construed as philosophies, not religions. And, quite curiously, one of the more interesting philosophies of the ancient world, taught by one “Anaximander" (ca. 550 B. C. ), contained most of the central postulates native to the views of a certain - you guessed it - “Charlie Darwin. "

Second, “religions" are person-relative. This means that no particular view (by itself) may properly count as “religion, " since what one does or does not DO WITH THE BELIEFS in question has an important bearing on the point at hand. If no ceremony or ritual of any kind attends the view in question, this makes it hard to justify the “religion" claim. For [counter-] instance, Aristotle believed in “intelligent design, " but very few would call his worldview “religious, " though his ideas do tend to show up in university philosophy courses quite a bit. Also, many of the French “Enlightment" Deists were quite arguably nonreligious - if not irreligious - persons, even though they affirmed “intelligent design. "

Third - and we need to keep beating this drum - almost every scientist prior to 1830 believed in intelligent design. And the majority of scientists kept believing in it until around 1870 or so. When Darwin published his “Origin of Species" (1859), he met with his hottest disputes from other scientists like Robert Owen, not from ecclesiastical authorities (though much of that came later). Are we really to believe the implicate of the claim above, namely, that no real science occured until after 1830 because most of the guys doing “science" at the time were really just doing “religion disguised as science?" Isaac Newton even wrote a book on Bible prophecy. Does that make him a “non-scientific quack?" Of course not.

Fourth, if such persons as the claimant who says, “Intelligent design is religion, " fail to offer a cogent defintion of what religion is, then his claim falters as an entirely arbitrary indictment. On the other hand, if any of these yokels ever actually get around to offering a definition of “religion, " it will inherently entangle them in real problems, since many features of “religion" also show up in evolutionary views.

For instance,

1. Evolutionary biology depends on the grand miracles of the “Big Bang" and “abiogenesis, " and other miraculous leaps from one kind of thing to another - which have not been observed.

2. Evolutionary cosmology (as taught in astronomy courses everywhere) forms an entire worldview, a required way of looking at the world through the lenses of naturalistic, subtle change as the ultimate cause of everything.

3. Evolutionary biology has major tenets - adaptation, natural selection, micromutation, survival of the fittest, etc.

4. Evolutionary biology requires beliefs in what cannot and have not been observed - the unseen. This is why evolutionary literature contains the ubiquitous refrain - “we cannot observe evolution happening today because it occurs so slowly. "

5. Those communities which regard it as true employ a unique vocabulary to express those beliefs.

6. Evolutionary biology and cosmology imply certain answers - and logically forbid others - to the grand questions of life, “What kind of world is this?" (metaphysics), “How do we know what we know?" (epistemology), “What is the nature of humanity?" (philosophical or religious anthropology), “What is proper human behavior?" (ethics), etc. , etc. Thus, by any defintion of religion I can imagine, if “intelligent design" counts as religion, how much more will evolutionary views be painted with the same brush?

So it seems appropriate here to finish our answer to the original question with a phrase from a game traditionally beloved by mathematicians:

"Check mate. "

Carson Day has written some 1.3 gazillion articles and essays on all manner of topics. These aim to glorify God and offer people real help to live wisely and well. You can visit Carson's websites at (The Omniblog, where Carson blogs everything) or (Carson's Day Trading Outpost). Thanks for stopping by.


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